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Essential Politics: Sessions comes to California with lawsuit in hand

Essential Politics: Sessions comes to California with lawsuit in hand
Essential Politics (Los Angeles Times)

It's one thing to trade criticisms and insults from 3,000 miles away; it's quite another to do so at a distance of just six city blocks.

That's what is expected in Sacramento in a matter of hours, as the nation's top law enforcement officer arrives with a speech in one hand … and a lawsuit against the state of California in the other.

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SESSIONS SUES OVER 'SANCTUARY' STATE

The lawsuit by U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions seeks to block California's new "sanctuary" state immigration law. And it's expected to be the centerpiece of remarks he's scheduled to deliver to the annual meeting of the California Peace Officers Assn. in downtown Sacramento.

Simply put, the administration of President Trump says the law, signed last fall by Gov. Jerry Brown, interferes with federal immigration law.

"The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that are imposed on you," Sessions is expected to say, based on an excerpt of the speech released on Tuesday.

The lawsuit will actually challenge three of the laws Democrats in the state Capitol wrote last year: the sanctuary rules, one that limits immigration raids in the workplace and a third that allows the state to inspect federal detention centers.

Word of the lawsuit was met with a swift jab from Brown on Twitter:

"At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don't work here. SAD!!!"

We will be following the events — both Sessions' speech and the community reaction — closely throughout the day on our Essential Politics news feed.

THE TARIFF TIFF: GARY COHN RESIGNS

Apparently, Gary Cohn had finally had enough.

On Tuesday, the president's top economic advisor decided to call it quits after apparently failing to dissuade the president from plans to impose sweeping tariffs on imported metals.

Trump had thrown a curve ball on the topic just hours earlier, saying that Mexico and Canada could avoid planned new tariffs on aluminum and steel if they agreed to make concessions to Washington in negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Hours before the news broke about Cohn, the president suggested he was interested in changing some of the "people" in the White House, and later tweeted that he's looking for a new economic advisor.

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Republicans on Capitol Hill have feared political fallout in November from the talk about tariffs and urged Trump to take a closer look at the potential effects.

To catch you up on all of the departures, here's our detailed look at the most notable firings and resignations in the Trump administration.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- It's starting to look possible that toughened sanctions against North Korea and Trump's unorthodox approach to diplomacy — his mix of crude insults, nuclear threats and a sprinkling of overtures — might have helped bring Kim Jong Un's government back to the negotiating table.

-- Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg came in like a lion and went out like a lamb in a string of explosive interviews on Monday during which he initially vowed to defy a grand jury subpoena in the Russia investigation.

-- A Swedish reporter asked the president on Tuesday what her country could learn from the United States about Russia's election meddling. What she got instead was his optimistic take on Republican Party prospects this year.

-- Nearly a decade after the financial crisis, some Democrats on Capitol Hill are ready to go along with a Republican push to significantly loosen the landmark law enacted to try to prevent the next one. A closely watched Senate bill advanced on Tuesday, but not without some glaring differences among Democratic senators.

-- The former CEO of a payday lending company that had been under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has asked to be considered for the top job at the watchdog agency.

-- A month after she admitted to an extramarital affair with her then-bodyguard, Megan Barry resigned on Tuesday as the mayor of Nashville, Tenn.

-- Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi announced Monday that he will resign his seat effective April 1.

-- Democrats in deep-red Texas turned out in their largest midterm primary election numbers since 2002 Tuesday, but still face long odds in ousting Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Read the results here.

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HOPEFULS FOR GOVERNOR AIM HIGH (TOO HIGH?) ON HOUSING PROMISES

Two of the leading candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have said they want 3.5 million homes built in California by 2025 as a way to end the state's housing shortage. For that to happen, it would require the production of 500,000 new houses a year, a level of growth unseen in modern state history, as Liam Dillon reports.

That's the general assessment of housing academics, contractors and economists about Newsom and Villaraigosa's goals. The experts doubted it was possible to achieve without, at the least, fundamentally reshaping how housing gets approved in California.

We also published this look at Newsom and Villaraigosa's full responses to our questions about their housing goals.

SLOPPY SIGNATURES DON'T INVALIDATE BALLOTS, SAYS JUDGE

California election law offers a simple — perhaps too simple — rule for elections officials when it comes to absentee ballots: The voter's signature on file must match the one on the ballot envelope.

How? It doesn't specify. And there's no way a voter knows if the ballot was left uncounted.

On Monday, a state judge ruled that the existing law is unconstitutional. The lawsuit in question was filed last summer on behalf of a Sonoma County voter. And with a sweeping change in state elections on the horizon, the signatures on vote-by-mail ballots will be more important than ever.

TODAY'S ESSENTIALS

-- In further fallout from a sexual harassment investigation at the Capitol, the director of CSU Sacramento's Senate Fellows Program has left the job, officials said Tuesday.

-- After a month of advocacy and efforts to reassure vulnerable students that filling out applications for financial aid would not put them at risk, the state has reached its goal for applications for aid under the California Dream Act, officials said Monday.

-- Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla takes his dispute over public access to Martins Beach in the Bay Area all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a legal argument that challenges the constitutionality of the California Coastal Act.

-- Wealthy Hollywood producer Steve Bing is teaming up with other entertainment bigwigs to host a fundraiser this month for former Villaraigosa's campaign for governor.

-- A slate of California bills meant to combat sexual harassment got a red carpet shoutout at the Oscars.

-- It's not as screwy as arming teachers, says George Skelton, but increasing the legal age for buying a rifle or shotgun from 18 to 21 is also off target, as he wrote in his column last week.

-- California homeowners receive $6 billion a year in state tax subsidies, while renters get $215 million, according to a new report from a low-income-housing advocacy group.

-- California's watchdog agency approved a record number of settlements for ethics and campaign violations last year.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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Follow me on Twitter at @johnmyers and listen to the weekly California Politics Podcast

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